‘I can do women's work’: reflections on engaging men as allies in women's economic empowerment in Rwanda

Slegh, H.
Barker, G.
Kimonyo, A.
Ndolimana, P.
Bannerman, M.
Taylor & Francis Online
Publication date: 
January 2013

Can the benefits of women’s economic empowerment be enhanced through engaging men to achieve gender equitable relations at the household level?  Research in Rwanda by CARE and Instituto Promundo has shown that discriminatory gender roles influence the way in which the benefits of a Village Savings and Loans scheme are used, with financial decision-making within the household still being dominated by men. A complex picture emerged in relation to women’s income and experiences of gender-based violence, with one of the main sources of conflict relating to money.

Responding to these findings, and the aspiration of men and women in programme households for greater interpersonal collaboration, a pilot intervention was established to engage men in a couple-focused process, deliberately questioning such roles in order to support their co-operation in household activities. The intervention engaged men on their own and with couples on household relational dynamics, health and gender-based violence.

A case-controlled evaluation using survey-based and interview methods was undertaken with men and women aged 20-76, survey questions were adopted from the 2010 IMAGES survey in Rwanda. The impact of this group-educational training was found to be positive on household-level poverty, collaboration in household and care work activities, and partner relations, decision-making and family dynamics. While it is difficult to confirm a reduction in gender-based violence, the programme design was based on principles of participatory group education that have been used to change harmful gender norms associated with violence.

Gender & Development, 21.1: 15-30
Slegh, H.; Barker, G.; Kimonyo, A.; Ndolimana, P. and Bannerman, M. (2013) ‘I can do women's work’: reflections on engaging men as allies in women's economic empowerment in Rwanda, Gender & Development, 21.1:15-30
Women’s economic empowerment